by Jeannie Andresen:
Want to inspire more of your female workforce to rise to the C-level? Help them adopt an entrepreneurial mindset to make it happen.
Isn’t it the greatest when your team makes you look like a rockstar? There is absolutely nothing sweeter than self-sufficient individuals supporting your business efforts who demonstrate sound decision-making, are committed to and passionate about the work they are doing, and who strive to bring solutions to the table rather than problems.
It is a dream to select from such a high-quality group when filling a high-level leadership opening, but discouraging when you recognize your leadership bench lacks gender diversity.
Despite statistics conveying that diverse workplaces outperform non-diverse workplaces by 35%, women still only hold 27.9% of C-Suite positions. To remain competitive, it’s vital to create a system that allows more women to grow into candidates for promotions.
Gender Parity on the Leadership Bench
Why is it that women have a harder time working their way to the top? Many studies point to gender bias being what prevents them from obtaining promotions in the first place. Data shows that women are often held back from advancing because they are promoted based on past accomplishments, while men are promoted based on potential. Additionally, women who negotiate and ask for promotions are 30% more likely to receive negative backlash than men who ask for the same thing.
If women are consistently denied promotions and penalized for their assertiveness, imagine how that can deplete your prospective leadership bench over time. Every opportunity to promote from within, with gender bias taken into consideration, a company is stunting its own future growth potential.
Additionally, we have learned, and I have experienced first hand, how women are conditioned from a very young age to second-guess ourselves, ask for approval, undermine our own capabilities, display perfectionism, and deflect praise. In school, these qualities are reinforced and encouraged, and in the workplace, they are certainly preferred by our male counterparts. But when it comes to what it really takes to be a high-performing and self-sustaining team member, especially in leadership, these attributes are anything but attractive.
So how do we effectively rewire our most talented young women to allow them to rise to and fulfill their potential?
My answer? Through adopting an entrepreneurial mindset.
Why is having an entrepreneurial mindset important?
The role of an entrepreneur is gender-neutral. Whether male or female, when someone owns a business, they are responsible for the business’s success despite fears. Business owners must learn to think creatively, be resourceful, identify their purpose, and own their results to attain success. But additionally, a phenomenal employee would exemplify these same characteristics.
I attribute my success in my corporate career to the entrepreneurial mindset that I maintained throughout being an employee. While in an employee role, I recognized that everything available to the independent contractors in our firm was also available to me if I choose to adopt their same mindset.
How did this manifest? Overthinking became decisiveness. Problems became seeking solutions. Failing became one step closer to success. And working for someone else became a choice of stepping into and owning a vital role on the team.
A simple switch of identity from the employee mindset to the entrepreneurial mindset brought about a massive change in behavior that made me stand out from my counterparts. As a woman, I was appointed the youngest member of our firm’s management team at the age of 27, and I attribute my leadership success to encouraging my team of mostly women to adopt this same mindset. In doing so, I witnessed my employees exhibiting a presence that differed significantly from their peers and uniquely captured leadership’s attention.
How can you drive your highest-potential young women to step into their capabilities?
Here are 5 tips to help your female employees adopt an entrepreneurial mindset:
1. Encourage women to believe big
Entrepreneurs rely heavily on faith when they begin their businesses. They may not know exactly how they will get to their vision of success, but they do know that they are going to get there.
When your current C-level leadership lacks diversity, it is important for you to encourage your promising female employees to believe that rising to the top is available to them. They may not know exactly how they will get there, but if they believe it is possible and have passion for their work, they will find a way to make it happen.
But just as motivation doesn’t last forever – leaders need to continue to paint this vision for their employees. Consistently remind them of the opportunities available to them and encourage your female employees to believe that big things are in store for them. You have permission to leave it to them to figure out how they will get there, but believing big is the most important part.
- Remind them of the universe’s (or you know, your company’s) abundance.
Feeling and displaying a sense of lack is a one-way ticket to self-sabotage. And unfortunately, women seem to fall into this state more frequently than men in the corporate world. However, you cannot blame us when there are a limited number of seats at the table, and only 30% of those have our name on them. It is challenging not to be threatened by that.
But along the lines of believing big is recognizing that there is room for anyone and everyone at the table who deserves to be there.
Successful entrepreneurs see other women’s successes as inspiration rather than competition. Instead of being discouraged by a “saturated market”, they recognize that there is space in the world to create any business they desire if they work towards it.
Believing in abundance allows female employees to shift their focus and energy from comparison and worry to creation and desire. When a woman sees another woman’s success as inspiration rather than competition, she becomes empowered to create it for herself. Remind your female employees that they really can have it all if they desire to make it happen, and encourage them to outline their own development plan as a starting point.
2. Think Creatively
Women tend to be more creative thinkers in nature but limit themselves by holding back ideas for fear of judgment and rejection from others, especially superiors. But in entrepreneurship, creative thinking is necessary for business growth.
Ask yourself, are your female employees holding ideas back from you in fear of being shut down? What ideas could be brought to the table, and how would they convey them with confidence if you encouraged a system that rewards creative thinking?
With the fear of rejection or criticism removed, and all ideas encouraged or rewarded, you may be surprised by how your women begin to color outside the lines with their ideas for professional growth and business development.
3. Be Resourceful
Resourcefulness is key in entrepreneurship. I have frequented YouTube more times in the last year since starting my business than I ever have in my previous 31 years combined. If I don’t know how to do something, I visit YouTube and figure it out. I don’t have the luxury of sitting with the problem until I have a one-on-one with my boss four days later. I make it a point to figure it out.
Women often limit their ability to seek solutions by dismissing their ideas and expecting their bosses to propose the answer. And when managers reinforce this by providing the answers, it limits one’s ability to gain confidence through seeking their own solutions and making decisions.
Next time an employee comes to you with a problem, encourage them to explore a solution fully. From pinpointing the best options and working through potential outcomes, the result will allow your employee to recognize their full capability in future decision making.
Another way to look at this is using the analogy of, “If I were to win the lottery and move to France tomorrow, and you were put in charge, what would you do?”
4. Failing Fast
In Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s book, The Confidence Code, they dig into women’s tendencies to delay certain actions in fear of falling short of perfection. They explain how perfectionism inhibits achievement and how men often rise to success based on their instinct to “just go for it.”
Ask any experienced business owner, and they will tell you that perfectionism is the enemy of success. When you own a business, you have to be willing to reach a decision quickly, put yourself out there, and fail fast.
Why are entrepreneurs so willing to do this? Because it gets them one step closer to success. And with every failure comes learning, and with every positive outcome comes confidence.
While fear of criticism and judgment is inherent in the human species, societal pressures for women to exemplify perfection puts them in a very compromising position when their fast-track to success includes many failures quickly.
When your female employees make harmless mistakes and experience benign failures, congratulate them instead of intimidating them with feedback. When opportunities for imperfect work present themselves, delegate it instead of taking it on and communicate that good is better than perfect. When an employee expresses worry over the possibility of messing up, affirm that it is possible and probable, but that it’s the best way to grow and that you trust them.
Create a safe space for your female employees to fail fast early on, and you’ll end up with incredibly competent team members who are primed for your future leadership opportunities.
How your employees will perform differently
Adopting the above entrepreneurial mindset strategies will have your employees operating with increased passion, confidence, and competence and will create significantly more trust among team members. It is challenging to think like an entrepreneur while very much being an employee. Still, with your leadership in this direction, your team of both men and women will recognize their capabilities and create leadership opportunities for themselves.
About Jeannie Andresen –
Jeannie is a former employee turned business coach for aspiring entrepreneurs. She spent nine years in corporate America in the financial services industry and was appointed to leadership at the age of 27. She attributes her success as an entrepreneur to the mindset she maintained through being an employee. She lives in downtown Chicago and is happiest when reading, writing, or doing anything active. To learn more about Jeannie’s services or collaborate, visit jeannieandresen.com
Written exclusively for Supply Chain Careers.